This month’s winner of my award for the worst ever is Napster. Allow me to explain…
So last week I switched from Windows 2003 x64 Edition back to Windows Media Center Edition – the idea being that now that this computer is in my bedroom at the new house (and no longer in the big open “living room” area of my old apartment) I want to use it as a TV – for when Jon is watching the big TV, or when I want to enjoy the comforts of my bed (or hypothetically, if someone else did).
So all is well and good and Media Center is up and running just fine. Except for one thing. Napster. I can’t play any of the music I downloaded from Napster. And they tell me they’re going to hold it hostage until July 16th, when I will be given the opportunity to repent for my sins and “deactivate” one of my PCs. And by “Old PC” I mean one of the OS installations from the same PC that was formatted away.
And when that happens, I will then have to wait another 30 days before I can “activate” my laptop and listen to music there. So right now, the only place I can listen to my Napster tracks is in my living room on the evil little Mac Mini (also running Windows Media Center). But they’ll keep taking the same amount of my money regardless.
I’ve dealt with computer “activation” for DRM’d media before. It’s a required process for the music I bought from MSN Music. However they handle it a bit differently. You see, they allow 5 simultaneous activations and you can activate/deactivate as frequently as you like. They do require that you deactivate from the computer you want removed, but I’ve gotten good at remembering to do that before I blow away any OS installations on any of my PCs. And it takes about 2 minutes to ask them via the online help to reset any orphaned PCs so I know it’s not the end of the world if I forget.
Napster allows only 3 computers to be active at once. However they let you deactivate a PC without actually connecting from it. Handy, I thought. Until I tried it and it told me I could only deactivate once every 30 days. At this point I already had 3 orphaned or soon-to-be orphaned activations. I had direct access to machines I wanted to remove from their list, but that didn’t matter to them. One per 30 days, regardless of where you do it from. This is crap.
So now I need to investigate how Urge works, to see if they offer a better solution. Still, switching services and re-downloading tracks is a pain I’d hoped to avoid.
My ideal solution (other than no stupid DRM) would be this:
1) Give me 5 activations. Three isn’t enough because I want my music on my desktop, my laptop, my media center, and maybe at work. And an extra one never hurts.
2) Let me deactivate anytime I want if I have access to the PC, just like MSN Music does now.
3) Let me deactivate an “orphaned” PC once every 30 days, like Napster does now.
4) As a stretch, give me “guest” activations where I can unlock my music for a short period of time, like 3-5 days or something. Give me a handful of these every month. This would be great when visiting friends or family and I could show them how great subscription music services are.
This seems reasonable enough to me. If no one is offering this now, they should be.